In his quest to sail around the world, Philippe Jamotte planned to leave San Francisco Bay in early October. He left on October 1, right on schedule. Unfortunately, this meant he wasn’t able to grab a copy of our latest magazine, in which, on page 56, you’ll discover there’s much more to his story
Sailors don’t leave the Bay on around-the-world voyages every day, and we wanted to wave farewell. Philippe has a tracker, and we knew he was leaving before 2 p.m., so we risked a trip to the Marin Headlands, hoping for a photo that was more than smoke and fog. We were lucky on two counts. There was clear air, sunshine and a nice breeze. Then, we found ourselves standing alongside Philippe’s wife, Joelle Benvenuto, their 14-year-old daughter Luna Jamotte, who was on a homeschooling break, and their friend Milt Hare and his son Keaton, who produced the video below.
Philippe is a mathematician and engineer, so a thoughtful and meticulous planner. And, when he jumps into something, he goes big. We asked Joelle if the voyage was something she saw in their future when she and Philippe were married many years ago. She replied with a kind of yes-and-no answer. He was not a sailor, but did love to take on big quests of all sorts. In fact, Philippe started sailing just over five years ago at Spinnaker Sailing Redwood City and then went on to win the Singlehanded Transpacific Yacht Race in 2018.
Joelle continued, “He likes doing things that align with his values of connecting to nature, taking on big challenges that require extreme focus, attention and learning. This means he’s trained for three years to do a half Ironman and done long-distance motorcycle adventures, but has also done things like spending four years becoming an expert potter. Fortunately for me he also doesn’t hang on to these things, so I don’t have a garage full of pottery! Luna and I are lucky to watch him go through the learning process, the fear plus the confidence to achieve and explore.”
It was obviously an emotional day, knowing he was leaving to pursue a big adventure and dream, but also knowing, if all goes well, that he will be away for about 200 days. Joelle and Luna described writing him greeting cards to be opened one per week throughout the voyage, including cards for his 50th birthday on February 11. They also gave Philippe presents to open on Christmas Day.
Since they weren’t a sailing family, we asked how they had prepared themselves for the voyage. Luna said, “My dad has given us a good collection of books to read, and I’ve read about Randall Reeves’ Figure 8 Voyage. However I’ve watched Titanic five times, so I’m nervous for him. We also did a charter aboard a catamaran in Guadeloupe, which was beautiful, and spent a few days and nights experiencing life at sea on the Gulf of the Farallones aboard Changabang, seeing whales and lots of wildlife.”
We asked Joelle if sailing was another project Philippe has jumped into that he’ll put behind him once he returns. She replied, “I think sailing is going to stick. He loves being out in nature, and since we are both originally from Belgium, we can see ourselves buying a boat to go cruising in the Med when we have a chance to retire.”
It’s interesting to note that Philippe’s course took him past another adventurer on his own personal quest. On Thursday evening, Wil Spaul, who left the Bay on Sunday to sail from San Francisco to Hawaii aboard his 9-ft Chubby Girl, had a position of 036° 58.563N, 124° 15.584W, and a course and speed of 244° at 1.0 knots. Changabang had a position of 35º 13.788N 126º 55.146W and course and speed of 235° true at 10.0 knots. Both are great adventures to follow while we shelter in place from pandemics and smoke. How will the world have changed when they return?
October has arrived, and it’s an exciting month! Why? Well, for starters, we’re seeing an abundance of pumpkins, both in the stores and on our neighbors’ doorsteps; the universe has granted us two full moons, one of which was last night’s Harvest Moon, and the next one being October 31 (yep, on Halloween — that’s so 2020); and the 520th edition of Latitude 38 magazine is on the streets, or on its way to your mailbox.
We have a great lineup of stories, photos and snippets for you this month. Here’s a preview:
32 to 33 at Sea
As a novice to sailing, over the years I have crewed on many different boats for weekend YRA races and occasional Friday night beer cans hoping to learn the ins and outs of sailing. Typically I find myself hanging off the high side of the boat dangling my feet toward the water. Crawling over the foredeck from side to side, water spraying up in my face, and the casual conversation with the fellow rail-meat crew sitting by my side is what I lived for on the weekends. In these magical moments, when I looked up at the Golden Gate Bridge I fantasized about what it must feel like to sail out to sea with only ocean on the horizon and water miles deep below me.
I Survived COVID-19 Living on a Boat
We’ve endured a lot of self-diagnosis, we’ve administered prescriptions from our own stash of meds, we’ve ventured ashore for each other, seeking solutions. In all those instances and more, we still slept beside each other at night, could still press a cool hand to a warm forehead, could gauge by close observation and ongoing proximity the subtle shifts trending better or worse in our beloved. But this illness comes wrapped in an added layer of cruelty. It forced us apart — strictly, when my results came in at 8:30 that night.
My husband was positive. I was negative. We live on a 41-ft sailboat.
Delta Doo Dah Dozen
You’ve probably heard by now that this year’s SoCal Ta-Ta and Baja Ha-Ha have been canceled due to the ongoing uncertainties and restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic. (A more casual cruise, the Nada Ha-Ha, has replaced the Baja Ha-Ha; more on that in Sightings.) While those rallies suffered the fate of so many other group events, the DIY Delta Doo Dah actually benefited.
With the Pacific Cup and other major regattas canceled or postponed, racers shifted their focus (and equipment) to cruising and turned their chartplotters inland. Hotel and airline cancellations prompted travelers to look to the water for summer vacations.
Philippe Jamotte Takes on the World
Philippe, 49, doesn’t have the usual résumé of working up the ladder to accomplish a sailing goal, but now that the bug has bitten he’s on his way to the adventure of a lifetime. Philippe plans on sailing solo around the world nonstop from San Francisco — the wrong way. That’s east to west, taking the Great Capes to starboard.
And of course we have our regular pages full of great stories:
- Letters: Id-ing an Old Photo; Thanks for Doin’ the Doo Dah; Seeing Some Weird Stuff Out There
- Max Ebb: ‘Calibrated’
- We’re serving up some ‘Baja Ha-Ha Memories’
- Sightings: ‘Problem Solver with an Offshore Addiction’; ‘What is the Nada Ha-Ha?’; and other stories
- World of Chartering features cruising families and couples aboard Taliesin Rose, Sonrisa, Totem and others as they navigate the pandemic world.
- And of course there’s this month’s Racing Sheet; Loose Lips, in which we announce September’s Caption Contest(!) winner; and the sailboat owners’ and buyers’ bible, Classy Classifieds
Grab your copy from your nearest distributor.
Max Perez, solo sailing the Pearson 303 Olive in early August, filed this report.
A 57-Mile Day to the Delta
Departing Emeryville at 7:15 a.m. at the end of the ebb, I hoped to catch slack tide by the time I reached the San Pablo Strait and ride the flood as far as I could toward the Delta. I learned the hard lesson of not fighting the current the last time I tried the Delta Doo Dah in 2018. Light but sufficient winds from the southwest pushed my classic plastic Pearson 303 across the Bay.
Kame Richards’ Bay tide and currents seminar proved useful. I took Red Rock and East Brother Island on my port side to catch a bit of countercurrent, as I was fighting the last of the ebb as I sailed up San Pablo Strait.
The wind abated as I entered San Pablo Bay, and the flood caught up to me. I motorsailed until near the Napa River, where the breeze filled in, allowing me to cut the engine and enjoy the conveyor belt of following wind and seas. The favorable conditions almost got to be a bit much by midday, and Suisun Bay flew by. My boat was propelled to almost 9 knots, which is about double the speed I generally see.
The various destinations where I had planned to end the day were left in my wake as I made better time than expected. I wasn’t stopping west of the Antioch Bridge, a waypoint I had failed to pass in my first attempt at the Delta Doo Dah in 2018.
The wind continued to build, and I made a couple of mistakes. I was running dead downwind for much of the trip, so I furled the jib, as it was being blanketed by the main. This is a backward choice, but being singlehanded I was loath to have to go to the mast to drop and collect the mainsail. Furling the jib worked well, but required that I jibe the main a few times in the growing wind as I made my way east. Most of the jibes were graceful, other than a couple that were more forceful than I am proud of. Sorry, boat!
Another mistake was a moment of indecision about taking False River around the top of Franks Tract or following the San Joaquin. I headed for False River and then changed my mind at the last second, afraid of carrying so much following wind into an unknown area, so I belatedly turned away from the False River entrance and almost got pushed onto the levee by the now-30 knots on my port side. I quickly unfurled the jib and sailed out of harm’s way, and up the more-familiar San Joaquin River.
Not having planned on getting this far in the first day and with the afternoon still bright and early, I made my way to Potato Slough. I had never been there before and the entrance looked a bit arid, but I needed to put an anchor down somewhere and finish the day. Bedroom 1 was very full, but it showed the greenery and promise of the favorable descriptions I had read. Bedroom 2 was exactly what I was hoping for: sparsely populated, verdant, calm and inviting. I deployed my anchor just past the water hyacinth in about 8 feet of depth, and relaxed. A snack and a swim in the pleasant water changed my mental state from the alertness of singlehanding to the calm of floating around with a PFD strapped to my butt like an aquatic easy chair.
An annual raft-up was happening at the submerged Mildred Island, so I headed there via Mandeville Point and Middle River the next morning. It was a scenic 9-mile trip, with only one navigation surprise that I avoided, thanks to the multiple warnings to mind my depthsounder that I had read on the Delta Doo Dah website. Mildred Island is beautiful, but there are many snags and stumps lining its perimeter and a healthy breeze running through its center. The raft-up I had come to see was impressive in its scale and included a floating yacht club, a barge with a VW bus, and a floating dance platform that included a grand piano.
I realized that I was looking for a quieter Delta experience though, and anchored away from the raft-up, and as close to the edge of the island as I dared in order to get a windbreak.
On the way back to Potato Slough the next morning, I explored Five Fingers and the surrounding areas. I detoured to Korth’s Pirate’s Lair, whose staff were helpful and friendly. I was able to dock easily enough at the tight but calm guest dock, but if my boat were much bigger or it were crowded, docking could be a bit difficult. The café was closed, but ice, fuel and a nice restroom were available.
Back to Potato Slough
At Potato Slough, Bedroom 1 was now even more packed. Thankfully Bedroom 2 was still quiet and peaceful. I spent two days lounging in the water and enjoying the herons, otters and fish that populate the area. There is something magical about swimming under one’s boat and touching the bottom of the keel, or following the anchor rode to where it disappears in the soft mud. I even ran into some friends anchored nearby on S/V Mazu. While social-distancing practices kept us all at arm’s length, it was nice to kayak around and enjoy good company.
In Oakland, there was way too much light pollution to see the Neowise comet, and even in the rural darkness of the Delta I did need to use my binoculars to see it. An added bonus was looking at Jupiter and Saturn, which were also passing close to the Earth’s orbit. To my amazement, I was able to see three of Jupiter’s moons with my standard boat binoculars!
Sailing the Bay, the raw water strainer in my boat can go years without collecting anything. In the Delta, it was full in two days. After I emptied it, it started leaking a small dribble of water, as the gasket had apparently dried out. I figured it would last until I got home, and added it to the repair list. It was while returning to the boat after a short swim that I noticed the bilge pump running. That small leak was apparently capable of filling my bilge pretty quickly! I immediately closed the raw water intake seacock and tried to fix the gasket with Vaseline and additional pressure, even adding a rubber band. These efforts slowed the leak, but didn’t eliminate it. The seacock would have to be kept closed when not motoring until this was fixed.
It was a much slower trip home.
Readers — We’re planning a feature next month about the Bay Bash; we’ll include the last part of Max’s report there. In the meantime, be sure to read much more from Delta Doo Dah Dozen in the October issue of Latitude 38, out now.
We’re often concerned with how ongoing waterfront development is limiting sailors’, boaters’ and paddlers’ access to the Bay and waterfront. It’s just not as easy as it used to be to own a small boat and find a place to put it into the water. Therefore we were happy to see, when passing through Santa Barbara last weekend, a large collection of beach cats lined up and ready to launch just west of the Santa Barbara Yacht Club. It just looks like one long row of good times.
It looks simple enough. But you know there have to be restrictions. We looked west to the end of the row and saw a sign clearly stating, “No Catamarans Beyond This Point.” The small sign seems to work, as the last beach cat was parked right in front of it. But we walked just beyond the sign to turn around and saw the same sign facing the other direction. Are we missing something?
We’re not sure how people decide which side of the sign to put their beach cat, but presumably it’s in accordance with the same phenomenon that happens on beaches everywhere — when you put your beach towel down, the next person puts theirs down next to yours. Somehow it works out.
Either way, we’re happy to see beach cats still have a path to the water, and would have been very psyched to launch one when the wind came up later in the day.